We celebrate Persons’ Day and yet still fight for personhood
October 18th is a special day in Canada. On that day, in 1929, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Counsel (at that time, the highest level of appeal in Canada) ruled that women were equal in law and were, in fact, persons. The case has become known as “The Persons’ Case” and every year on October 18th, Canada remembers that case on “Persons’ Day“. (You can read the actual text of that judgment here.)
On October 29th of this year, Ms. Megan Leslie, an NDP Member of Parliament, rose in the House and said the following:
Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, on Friday I will celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Persons Case with fellow feminists at a breakfast in Halifax for LEAF, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.
Professor Jula Hughes will speak on the history of legal disputes for abortion access in New Brunswick, which is timely, as its Morgentaler Clinic closed this summer. This was the only facility in the province where women could get an abortion free of restrictions, and it served women in New Brunswick and P.E.I.
Why do women in the Maritimes still have to fight for a right that was granted 26 years ago to all Canadian women?
It was 85 years ago that we became persons in the eyes of the law in this country, and 85 years later, women in the Maritimes still face inequalities regarding access to abortion facilities.
Today, I stand in solidarity with women in New Brunswick and P.E.l. who say “my body, my choice”.
Happy Persons Day, Mr. Speaker, the day in 1929 when women were declared persons under the law. It is now 85 years later, and we still stand committed to confronting all forms of discrimination to achieve equality for women and girls.
It is ironic that Ms. Leslie missed the point that in 1928 our own Supreme Court had ruled that, in the eyes of the law, women were not eligible to be Senators because they were not “qualified persons”. So, the court, which is now the highest court in our land (though it was not in 1929) got it spectacularly wrong back then. Likewise, just because our law doesn’t recognize that pre-born humans aren’t persons, it doesn’t mean the law is right.
An even more poignant observation is made by Mr. Leon Benoit, a Member of Parliament from Alberta. He made a statement in the House on November 6th, seemingly in reaction to the statement by Megan Leslie.
Mr. Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in light of the 85th anniversary of the Persons Case, I acknowledge the many Canadians who are working to ensure that all human beings are recognized in law.
Canada truly is among the world’s elite when it comes to valuing and protecting human rights, except that we are one of only three countries in the world with no legal protection for children before birth. Sadly, this includes unborn babies who are eliminated and have their precious lives ended just because they are girls.
Britain knows it is wrong. Its Parliament declared sex-selection abortions illegal by a 181-to-1 vote.
Canada can fix this too. Let us start by having this Parliament condemn gender-selection abortion. What better day to recognize this than on Persons Day?
As Dr. Seuss once said, “A person’s a person. No matter how small.”
Mr. Benoit’s response is wonderfully simple and yet so powerful. He deserves our appreciation. Please consider sending Mr. Benoit a note of thanks. He can be contacted at [email protected] .